Lahore: Counting got underway on Saturday in Pakistan's landmark elections after millions of people defied deadly Taliban attacks to take part in an historic democratic transition in the nuclear-armed state.
Earlier, former prime minister and Pakistan Muslim League (N) (PML(N)) chief Nawaz Sharif, the frontrunner in Pakistan's landmark polls, cast his ballot here on Saturday, and said he was confident of receiving "good news" about his victory.
Speaking to the media after casting his vote, Sharif said he was hopeful of his party's victory and was praying for a good outcome for the country.
Sporting a badge depicting his election emblem, a tiger, Sharif said, "It was my desire and it is my dream which I see today being fulfilled. Parliament completed five years and now people are electing another parliament for the next five years."
"My prayer is that the outcome of this election should be good for this country. On whomever Allah bestows victory, I hope he will be able to deliver," said the 63-year-old PML(N) leader.
Sharif-led PML(N) is widely tipped to emerge as the single largest party in the polls.
He could end up becoming a premier for the third time if he is able to cobble together a coalition comprising the religious, nationalist and right-wing parties that are expected to do well in the provinces.
Sharif said he was "confident that tonight we will start receiving good news from across the country".
"Muslim League (N) has brought change in the lives of people in the past and PML(N) is the only party which has an agenda for the future," he said.
"I pray that whatever happens, may Allah make it good for Pakistan and good for Pakistani people," he told reporters at the polling station in Lahore, his stronghold. "Whatever God does will be good for Pakistan," he added.
Pakistanis voted on Saturday to choose new national and provincial assemblies, setting in motion the first democratic transition of power in the country's 66-year history.
Women stopped from voting in some stations
Women were stopped from voting at some of the polling stations in Punjab and the Taliban stronghold in the northwestern tribal district of North Waziristan, reports said.
"Not a single woman cast her vote in Sahiwal's polling station number 15 where a total of 645 women were registered.
"It is a tradition of the villagers to bar women from voting, one which was started by tribal elders 35 years ago," the Dawn reported.
Sahiwal is located in Pakistan's Punjab province. No woman voter turned out to cast their votes in Lower Dir district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa after a jirga decided a day earlier not to allow women to vote in the Lower Dir constituency.
The report added that no women were allowed to cast their votes in NA-156 Khanewal-I's Mohrhipur polling station. The number of women registered to vote at the polling station was 1,260.
In 2008, not a single vote was cast at 564 of over 28,000 women's polling stations — 55 per cent of them in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, officials said.
There are 86 million registered voters in the country — 37 million are women and 48 million men.
However, the percentage does not translate to representation.
In 2012, the last year of the previous government, only 60 of the 342 seats in the National Assembly of Pakistan were held by women.